Guilty plea for local man selling false dreams of early prison release

Guilty plea for local man selling false dreams of early prison release

A large ring of conspirators syphoned millions of dollars from families of federally incarcerated inmates, promising reduced prison sentences in exchange for hefty payments, according to an indictment that names a Port Arthur man as one of the actors.

According to information from the office of Eastern District of Texas Acting U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston, 48-year-old Larry Lee Stephenson of Port Arthur, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud Tuesday, Jan. 24, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Zack Hawthorn.

Information presented in court and provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office reveals that “on Sep. 30, 2016, federal and local agents arrested three individuals in the Houston area involved in a nationwide six-year scheme which defrauded the relatives of federal inmates by falsely representing that they could obtain reductions in their relatives’ sentences in exchange for the payment of cash and wire transfers of funds.

“The payments were falsely represented to be for the payment for a network of confidential informants who would make undercover drug transactions under the direction of the courts and prosecutors, which would allow the incarcerated inmates to ask the court for reductions of sentences for providing substantial assistance to the government under the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.”

In reality, the indictment against Stephenson and others alleges, “the money was spent for the personal benefit of the defendants and there was never any network of informants or undercover transactions.”

Additionally, the governmental agency maintains that federal inmates do not have to pay for substantial assistance motions for reductions of sentences which normally only require information to be provided by such inmates against co-defendants, as well as trial testimony.

Separate indictments in the scheme were handed down by federal grand juries in the Eastern District of Texas, Beaumont Division, and the Southern District of Florida, Miami Division. The Texas indictment alleged a wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud involving six individuals: Alvin James Warrick, 41, Colitha Patrice Bush, 36, Ronald B. Shepherd, 33, and Alvin Turner, 54, all of Houston, Texas; and Larry Lee Stephenson, 48, of Port Arthur. Also, Alvin James Warrick, Colitha Patrice Bush, Ronald B. Shepherd were also the subject of the indictment from the Southern District of Florida alleging a wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The indictments allege different victims in and around each district. The scheme resulted in losses to inmate families of over $4 million. Turner was arrested in October and Stephenson surrendered in October. One defendant remains at large and is being sought by authorities. Warrick is detained pending trial in Miami. Bush, Shepherd, Turner, and Stephenson are released on conditions.

Under federal statutes, the defendants face up to 20 years in federal prison at sentencing.